Space

NASA orders first manned Dragon mission

NASA orders first manned Drago...
Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida undergoes modifications by SpaceX to adapt it to the needs of the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets
Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida undergoes modifications by SpaceX to adapt it to the needs of the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets
View 1 Image
Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida undergoes modifications by SpaceX to adapt it to the needs of the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets
1/1
Launch Pad 39A at NASA's Kennedy Space Center in Florida undergoes modifications by SpaceX to adapt it to the needs of the company's Falcon 9 and Falcon Heavy rockets

NASA has ordered the first mission by SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft to ferry astronauts from Cape Canaveral to the International Space Station. This is the second mission planned with a private company under the Commercial Crew Transportation Capability (CCtCap) contracts, which guarantees at least four such orders with two companies. The launch is scheduled for late 2017.

The purpose of the still to be scheduled mission will be to re-establish the US capability to carry astronauts to the ISS without having to rely on the Russian Soyuz spacecraft. NASA says that this would not only restore the American manned spaceflight capability, but also save money and allow more time on the space station to be dedicated to science. During the mission, the Crew Dragon will carry up to four NASA or NASA-sponsored astronauts and about 220 lb (100 kg) of pressurized cargo to the ISS. The Dragon will then stay docked at the station for up to 210 days, where it will act as an emergency lifeboat before returning to Earth with a relieved crew.

Friday's announcement is the second such mission order placed by NASA. The first was offered in May to Boeing, which is developing its CST-100 Starliner. The contracts with SpaceX and Boeing guarantee at least two missions each and a maximum of six. Though neither company's spacecraft has yet been certified, NASA says that the CCtCap contracts need to give the operators two to three years of lead time for manufacturing and assembling the spacecraft and their launch vehicles.

Which company will actually fly the first mission to the ISS has yet to be determined. NASA says that this will depend on each company's state of readiness. SpaceX's Crew Dragon spacecraft and Falcon 9 rocket have already passed several development and certification milestones. However, funding for the program is still key to the mission timetable and a lack of money from Congress could see the 2017 launch date slip.

"It's really exciting to see SpaceX and Boeing with hardware in flow for their first crew rotation missions," says Kathy Lueders, manager of NASA's Commercial Crew Program."It is important to have at least two healthy and robust capabilities from US companies to deliver crew and critical scientific experiments from American soil to the space station throughout its lifespan."

Source: NASA

1 comment
bobcat4424
This pretty much marks the end of the ULA launch monopoly. Already SpaceX is already launching satellited for around $57 million. And at this pricepoint SpaceX is very profitable. There is nothing at ULA, ESA, Russia, China, India and Japan has that can match it. The reusable booster is so close to fruition that it is only a matter of time until someone does it even if it is not SpaceX. Another huge savings will come from land recovery of both boosters and capsules. This saves the incredible expense that goes with sea recovery. Already SpaceX is the only means by which experiments and broken equipment from the ISS can be returned to Earth safely.
It is looking more and more that the CST-100 will not be even close in either price or function. Its payload of astronauts and cargo are not even close. And the CST-100 is craft made while the Dragon is assembly line. If you are looking for very tight quality management, it simply can never be achieved with craft-made components.